GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - We're just beginning to read through the 92 page PEER report about the restoration of the Port of Gulfport. And already, one finding stands out. PEER committee members say the port will be unable to meet its objective of creating or retaining 2,586 permanent direct maritime jobs by 2015. As a matter of fact, calculations by PEER committee members indicate the port won't meet that job goal until the year 2026.
The findings by the Joint Legislative on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review were posted online around 7:30 this morning.You can read the full text here: http://www.peer.state.ms.us/reports/rpt575.pdf
The PEER committee determined that, "As of January 14, 2013, four years into the Port of Gulfport Restoration Program and less than three years from the program's targeted completion date of December 2015, MSPA had expended 15 percent of the approximately $567 million in available funds."
PEER determined the Port of the Future project had three main objectives. It was created to restore the facility after Hurricane Katrina, do any mitigation work necessary, and bolster economic development.
"In total, MSPA has spent or plans to expend approximately $90 million in Port Restoration Program funds on projects that included a restoration component," committee members write. "MSPA believes that the fourteen-foot elevation will protect the port from the majority of storms that Gulfport experiences; and, the port will be unable to meet its objective of creating or retaining 2,586 permanent direct maritime jobs by 2015."
The PEER committee works under the assumption the project could be finished in 2015, and two new tenants could be docked at the rebuilt Port of Gulfport in 2016. In that scenario, the PEER report says, "The port would not achieve the number of permanent direct maritime jobs projected in the action plan for 2015 (2,586) until 2027."
The report notes that on September 30, 2011, the Mississippi Development Authority told HUD this investment would create 12,980 permanent jobs. Three months later, that number was dropped to 2,586. Today, the expectation is the Port of the Future initiative will bring 1,300 new jobs to Gulfport's shoreline.
Mississippi State Port Authority executive director Jonathan Daniels was quick to respond to the PEER report. "The report says we can't create the number of jobs we are to produce in the time we have," Daniels wrote in a news release sent to WLOX News. "We have taken a very aggressive approach to pursuing jobs and investment now and, based on the level of prospective tenant activity, we are confident that we can achieve our goals." Two prospective tenants have signed confidential memorandums of understanding with the Port and are in the process of exploring their potential location in Gulfport. "Both MOUs were signed since the PEER completed their review," noted Daniels. "So in some respects, this report is already outdated."